With three adventurous sub-teen (ages 11, 9, and 7) eaters in tow, I ambled into the pleasantly appointed eatery on a recent weekday, smack-dab in the middle of lunch rush. Crowded and bustling, Roxy's certainly has the look and feel of a NYC deli. However, in a notable departure from authenticity, we were greeted warmly, and basked in the meaty odors. Roxy's is set up primarily for take-out, so seating is limited, but among the numerous outdoor parks and benches downtown, the eater can easily find a nearby spot to enjoy their Roxy's provisions. The youngsters suggested Pioneer Square's Waterfall Park, where we pulled up ringside seats as the large and noisy falls spewed vast amounts of peace-inducing negative ions.
The 11- and nine-year-olds both chose the Hot Pastrami Sandwich ($5.95), which, to put it simply, was a load. Served on a chewy light rye, the quickly grilled pastrami exploded with flavor. Famously picky, the nine-year-old praised the sandwich structure: "I'm not really much of a mustard guy, but this is pretty good!" Adorned with only a robust East Coast-style mustard, the pastrami sandwiches could offer little resistance to the aggressive toothing of the children.
I ordered the Classic Reuben ($6.95), which featured corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, mustard, and Thousand Island dressing, piled on the aforementioned rye. Like the pastrami sandwiches, the Reuben presented a voluminous challenge. As this handsomely constructed affair worked its way past gastrointestinal sphincter after sphincter, recollections of NYC gurgled forth with all the force of the gushing waterfall. "Chew, dammit, chew" came the silent self-reminder, as I hoped to put off or minimize acid-induced esophageal mayhem. Roxy's meat slicing did seem a little on the giant side, with thick-cut pieces of corned beef stacked high and proud. Granted, today's hearty eater might find the oversized hunks a gift rather than cause for complaint -- still, the sizing approached cartoonish proportions.
The seven-year-old went for the more familiar Cold Turkey Sandwich ($5.95), and admirably buzzsawed his way through half of the predictably value-sized item. The sourdough bread, while hardly stale, lacked the giving and doughy consistency which usually stands as the hallmark of NYC cold sandwiches. Like his siblings, the youngest ate silently and with great purpose. Some of this may have been due to the noisy and mesmerizing waterfall, which makes Waterfall Park a wonderful place to take noisy children. Still, the true source of the children's hypnosis looked to be the remarkably satisfying Roxy's fare.
Each sandwich came with stunningly crisp pickles, the kind that snap with a juicy vigor. Now, there are pickles and there are pickles -- and these were the real deal. So many "deli-style" pickles sport a nasty pharmacological flavor, as though they came from the King County morgue. Roxy's version lacked that characteristic hint of formaldehyde, delivering instead true cucumber goodness.
As for side dishes, all three of the young'uns have a thing about rice pudding; this resulted in a split decision regarding Roxy's version. Dense and chunky, Roxy's Rice Pudding ($1.00) deviates greatly from the Kozy Shack brand, the boys' home-style favorite. With its strong vanilla flavor and a bold custardy body, the deli's take on the old-school favorite drew a thumbs up from the 11- and seven-year-olds, while the nine-year-old wished it was served hot.
The only weak link in our otherwise flawless ordering strategy proved to be the Oregon Blue Cheese Potato Salad ($2.99). While the creamy skin-on chunkiness was enviable, the naturally rotten flavor of blue cheese greatly detracted from the potato experience. Since we could hardly blame this on Roxy's, we were left to hang our heads in shame at our ordering faux pas. Next time we'll leave this item to the tourists.
Roxy's Deli 1909 First Avenue 441-1865
Open Mon-Sat 11 am-7 pm, Sun 12 noon-6 pm. No alcohol.